Episode 2 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, “The Star-Spangled Man”, is now available on Disney+. It’s got a different tone compared to the first episode, throwing us right into the center of the action. We’re introduced to more key players and get to see Sam and Bucky on screen together! So let’s delve into this episode and what it brings to the table. Spoilers ahead: this episode’s got its fair share of surprises.
The first part of the episode formally introduces us to John Walker, the new Captain America. We also meet his military buddy Hoskins and Walker’s girlfriend. They’re both supportive characters and place a great deal of faith in Walker, even though he voices some concerns about the big shoes he has to fill. However, based on his experience and charisma, it appears as though he’s the perfect fit. I say “appears” mostly because his attitude changes over the course of the episode. He gets the chance to both meet and fight alongside Sam and Bucky, and though he’s painfully cheerful and leader-like, it’s clear he’s not getting any support from them.
Then we get a hint of Walker’s true colors at the end of the episode, and they’re not red, white and blue. He tells Sam and Bucky to “stay the hell out of [his] way” after Sam voices that he and Bucky are free agents and aren’t restricted by government policies and plans of action. It’s an ominous statement that seems almost out of character based on what we’ve seen of him. Other than this small moment, he seems like a good guy, but possibly unaware of his own charisma. He doesn’t want to be Steve Rogers, yet he looks and acts quite similar. His military buddy Hoskins even acts like his own personal Falcon sidekick! It’s not surprising that Bucky and Sam don’t trust him as far as he can throw the shield.
John Walker isn’t the only new character we meet, however. The Flag-Smashers get some more time in the spotlight this episode, and they demonstrate that they’re super soldiers. Their leader is Karli Morgenthau, a Freedom Fighter who wants to return the world to the way it was before the Blip. She’s a strong combatant, as shown in the truck fight against our three heroes, but she’s also beloved by her followers. The Flag-Smashers respect her as a leader, and she loves and appreciates them. Apparently, that love doesn’t extend far, because during the episode she receives texts from an unknown number threatening to kill her. She doesn’t reveal this to the others, but it clearly causes some concern. Beyond this, however, we don’t know much about Karli beyond her goal and position in the group.
The reveals don’t end there. Sam and Bucky get multiple chances to shine this episode, showcasing their tension through heated but playful banter. Bucky’s got a bone to pick with Sam, thinking that he made a huge mistake in giving up the shield. Sam doesn’t like it either, but at least he’s reasonable and says they can’t exactly change things in the moment. After all, they’ve got bigger fish to fry (or rather, flags to smash). Once they discover that the Flag-Smashers are super soldiers, Bucky reveals a key part of the Captain American legacy: Isaiah Bradley. He’s an older gentleman who’s a super soldier himself, and he even squared off against Bucky in his HYDRA years.
But Isaiah wasn’t given the royal superhero treatment like Steve Rogers was. Instead, he was locked up for thirty years as people performed tests on him. After getting kicked out of Isaiah’s house, Sam’s furious, demanding to know why Bucky never told him or Steve about this. We don’t get much of an answer, because moments later some police come and start harassing the two men. It’s a painful reminder about how America treats black people, no matter their role. Admittedly, it was hard to watch.
Ultimately, the police arrest Bucky. He’s been pardoned from his crimes, but his therapy is court mandated, and he missed a session. So he’s promptly arrested and bailed out by none other than John Walker, but before he can run free he’s dragged into a therapy session. This time, though, Sam’s forced to tag along. Together, the two basically act like a bitter married couple, and they even go through what’s considered “couple’s therapy” together. It’s a funny scene, but then we get what’s possibly the most emotional reveal of the episode. Bucky tells Sam that him giving away the shield makes it seem as though Steve was wrong to trust Sam. And if Steve was wrong about that, who’s to say he wasn’t wrong about Bucky, too?
“The Star-Spangled Man” ends with a promise for next episode: Bucky and Sam are on their way to talk to Zemo. We already saw him in the series’ official trailer, but it’ll be interesting seeing him on screen after so long. If Sam and Bucky didn’t have a mutual dislike for the Flag-Smashers before, they’ll certainly have something to agree about now. Overall this episode felt a lot different than the first one. Now that our titular heroes are back together and working towards a common goal, things are bound to get more exciting from here. I just wish we could’ve seen the winner of that staring contest during the therapy session…
What did you think of this episode? Do you have any predictions for next episode? Let us know in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!